Parking technology arriving

Tony GuerreroBy Douglas Esser
Finding a parking spot on campus should become easier for University of Washington Bothell and Cascadia College students with new technology being installed by facilities services.

In response to student demand and in sympathy with drivers who have searched in vain for a place to park, there are several new aids. A new phone app called ParkUp (coming soon) will tell drivers what to expect at the garages even before they arrive on campus. Then, electronic signs will help them decide between garages and surface lots. Signs inside the garages will show the number of available spots and point the way. Open spaces will be marked by a green light overhead. When a car parks, the overhead turns red.

parking app graphic“It’s a way to have more information out there earlier on where parking is available so you’re not driving around and hoping you can find parking,” says Tony Guerrero, the University’s associate vice chancellor for facility services. “You know about it before you come. You know about it before you enter the building (garage), and you know about it floor by floor.”

colored signal lightsIt’s a guidance system called EasyGuide from Parking Sense, which is based in New Zealand. Worked started over the summer on the system, which cost $410,000, including electrical upgrades for state permits, Guerrero said. The project is funded through the commuter services budget.

Workers have been installing the necessary lighting and signs in garages and developing the Android and iPhone app, aiming for the beginning of fall quarter. The exterior signs should be installed by mid-October, Guerrero says.

Tony Guerrero points at signal light“It’s going to provide more knowledge for you so you are not driving around and around and all of sudden you’re disappointed,“ he says. “You have a little more information to make that decision.” 

In addition to saving time and gas and reducing exhaust pollution, the system will provide analytics for planners about how often spaces turn over. Also, the system of red and green lights over each covered space in a garage can be programmed for different colors – yellow for reserved spots and blue for disabled parking.

Eventually, surface lots also will have counters and signs showing how many spaces are available.

Guerrero says campus officials are responding to the frustration of drivers who’ve had the experience of driving all the way through a garage without finding a spot. 

“We really need it,” says Guerrero. “In those peaks when everyone is coming to school, it is a challenge to find parking.”